Chapter 10
Better Times Ahead
Table of Contents

Title Page
1 A place called Hamilton.
2 Public Works and Private Enterprise
3 Port Hamilton
4 1837-1839
5 Ericsson Wheels
6 1844-1847
7 Good Times in Port
8 Boom Town Days
9 Depression Years
10 Better Times Ahead
11 1867-1870
12 Prosperity for the Shipbuilders
13 The Second Railway Building Era
14 1884-1888
15 The Electric Era
16 The Iron Age
Table of Illustrations


The season of 1864 started on a brighter note, certainly along the waterfront. Whether it did for the City Fathers, who, in late autumn of 1863, suffered the ignominy of seeing all of the City's chattels sold at public auctiong in a futile attempt to whittle down their monstrous debt, is another thing.

The interest in overseas trading was still strong and on the 30 January, an advertisement was placed in the Spectator, giving notice that a line of packets would operate from Liverpool to Toronto,Hamilton,Cleveland and other ports. It was placed by the firm of Cunningham, Shaw & Co. of Liverpool, whose Cleveland agent was Augustus Tregent. The vessels to be used in this service were:

"the magnificent new barque ETOWAH,Capt. David Tucker; the well known barque RAVENNA,Capt. John Johnson, who made his last passage from Liverpool to Cleveland in 40 days; the barque WIRRALITE,Capt. John Jennings, late of the far-famed brig CRESSINGTON; the CRESSINGTON and the new barque THERMUTIS."

At the south-western end of the Harbour, just south of the railway yards, there was great activity. The Great Western Ry. Rolling Mill was under construction. As the Spectator remarked on 30 March,

"it appears that the necessity has been demonstrated for providing a rolling mill, which will not only effect a great saving of expense, but place the re-rolling of rails entirely under the management and control of the company. It is now fast progressing toward completion, The building is large, having the greatest span, we believe, of any building in the Province. The building is of pine, part however, being of brick and the whole rests upon stone piers. It is 170 x 100 feet; height of roof 32 feet, supported by 7 trusses. The main building is 100 feet square with a lean-to at each end 100 x 35 feet and a cupola 100 x 22 feet and 6 feet high at the sides. Used in the construction were 153,063 feet of pine and 5,477 feet of oak. The builders were Messrs. W. & R. Chisholm of this city. The cost of the building and the necessary machinery will be about $90,000. The Galt firm of Goldie & McCullogh have the contract for machinery and boilers and John Gartshore of Dundas is furnishing castings. Mr. G. L. Reid, Engineer of the Great Western Ry. planned and superintended the construction of the mill and Mr. Lambert will be in charge of it."

A notice in the Hamilton Times on 31 March, advised that the Commercial Wharf, occupied by Thomas Routh, would be sold at auction by A. Booker, at his sales rooms on 15 April.

The forwarders and ship-owners were cautiously optimistic about the new season and by the 6 April, lists of vessels were being published. The Canadian Inland Steam Navigation Co., for whom Edward Browne was the Western Manager had these steamers ready for business: GRECIAN,Capt. Clark Hamilton,MAGNET,Capt. John Fairgrieve,CHAMPION,Capt. Andrew Dunlop,KINGSTON,Capt. Thomas Howard,PASSPORT,Capt. J. R. Kelly and the BANSHEE,Capt. Howard E. Swales.

Jacques, Tracy & Co., an old-established firm had placed Henry Jacques in charge of the Western end of their business at Toronto, in place of E. Pridham, who had left the firm. Their fleet would be the same as the previous year, viz. HURON,COLONIST,AVON,INDIAN,OTTAWA and ST. LAWRENCE.

The firm of Holcomb & Cowan, had now become Henderson & Co. and they would operate the OSPREY,GEORGE MOFFATT,WEST,BRANTFORD and the new propeller HER MAJESTY.

A new line of steamers formed by Messrs. Chaffey & Black, would consist of the new twin-screw steamer MERRITT, the new propeller CANTIN,BROCKVILLE,BRISTOL,WHITBY,BRUNO,RANGER and the propeller MAGNET. It was the intention of these owners to operate the smaller vessels from Montreal to Chicago. The MERRITT, of course, being too large for the Welland Canal locks. She measured 174.3 x 38.2 x 12.5; her gross tonnage was 1,127 and her net was 979. She was owned by B. W. & G. Chaffey of Brockville. She could carry 8,000 bbls. of flour, on ocean draught, in addition to 300 tons of bunker coal. She had three masts and was rigged as a barque. The other new vessel in this fleet, the CANTIN was built by Augustin Cantin for J. D. Black of Montreal.

The agent in Hamilton for both the Henderson and Chaffey & Black fleets was John Proctor, an energetic commission merchant of Scottish birth, formerly in the employ of John Smith.

Photograph of Louis Shickluna's shipyard at St. Catharines, reported to have been taken in 1863, showing the propeller AMERICA in the right foreground. The barkentine PRIDE OF AMERICA appears in the centre, with the propeller HER MAJESTY in the background. Photo: Author's Collection
Another new propeller, the AMERICA, built by Louis Shickluna in 1863 for the firm of Norris & Neelon in St. Catharines, would run between Montreal and St. Catharines, with calls at Toronto, upward.

Capt. Milloy, owner of the unfortunate ZIMMERMAN, had had the engine removed from the burned-out hull and it was to be placed in a new hull being built by Shickluna. She was to be named CITY OF TORONTO.

The steamer EMPRESS was being offered for sale or charter and rumour had it that she would be placed on the Niagara route pending delivery of the new steamer. Down at Port Dalhousie,Donaldson & Andrews were building a new steamer for the Pt. Dalhousie-Toronto service.

The Great Western Railway called for tenders for their first car-ferry with this notice on the 12 April:

Great Western Railway of Canada
Notice to Ship Builders and Engineers
Tenders are requested for the construction of a
Car Ferry Boat for the Detroit River -

The model, together with plans and specifications for the projected boat can be seen and Form of Tender procured, at the office of the General Manager in Hamilton. Tenders for the whole or separate tenders for the hull, engines and boilers, sealed and marked "Tender for the ferry boat at Windsor" and addressed to the under-signed, will be received up to Saturday, 30th April 1864. By order

Thomas Bull, Treasurer.

On Wednesday, 20 April, the Hamilton Spectator sent a reporter across the Bay to Alexander Brown's Wharf in East Flamboro to witness a launching. Here is his account:

"Yesterday afternoon, we had the pleasure of witnessing the launch of Capt. Walsh's new ferry steamer, the PRINCESS OF WALES. There were about three or four hundred people present. She is a neat and beautifully, built vessel and reflects great credit on the builder, Mr. A. LeClaire of Hamilton. She measures 120 feet in length, 25 feet over the guards and 8 feet deep. The engine and boiler have been made by F. G. Beckett & Co. of Hamilton. She moved off well from the stocks and was christened by Miss Martha Brown, daughter of our respected warden. The boat is intended to ply between the City and Oaklands. Great credit is due Capt. Walsh for putting on our Bay this ferry as she was badly needed, the VICTORIA being too slow and too small for the crowds during the summer months."

The next day, there was another launching, this time at James Bowman & Co.'sCity Wharf, The vessel launched was a scow ferry for use at the Burlington Canal. She was built by Charles Lee and was christened PRINCE OF WALES by Miss Annie Phelan, daughter of the boatbuilder, Dennis Phelan.

The steamer ARGYLE berthed in the Canal Basin at Dundas Photo: Author's collection
Another launching took place on Thursday 28 April, when the small side-wheel steamer ARGYLE slid down the ways at the shipyard next to Zealand's Wharf. The builder was Archibald Miller Robertson and the steamer was built for Cameron & Innes of Dundas. The bottle of champagne was successfully shattered by Miss MacKenzie, daughter of T. H. MacKenzie of Dundas, and it was the intention of the owners to operate the vessel between Hamilton and Dundas.

A reporter from the Hamilton Spectator took a walk around the City Docks on Friday, 6 May and had this to say:

"Starting at the foot of James Street, the wharves of A. D. MacKay and Jas. Bowman first claimed attention. Mr. MacKay has erected the most complete, commodious and extensive wharf premises in Canada West. His buildings are models of their kind, and are now well filled, even this early in the season. Mr. Bowman has the old City Wharf. He has made arrangements for a large business, but as the freight steamers from below have not begun to arrive yet, business at all the private wharves is slack. Edward Browne's Wharf showed signs of much animation and, we observed a vessel ready to load there. The old rickety concern known as Cook's Wharf is now in ruins. The extensive grain storehouses owned by Messrs. Birely,Williamson and Smith, at present appear to be idle, but as soon as the vessels begin to arrive, business will be brisk again. The existence of two boat-building establishments shows that the healthful and invigorating pastime of boating is not neglected. Mr. Dennis Phelan has been building extensively and has quite a number of new boats afloat. His large boathouse is an object of great attraction and is likely to be well patronized this season. He is building a stairway down the slope to the wharf, thus rendering it more accessible than at present. Mr. Edward Mayhew has also an extensive boat-building establishment, and is building six boats. The new pleasure steamer PRINCESS OF WALES, now being finished for Capt. Walsh, and which takes the place of the old VICTORIA, now dismantled, lies here and is expected to be ready by the 24 May. Few persons, we dare say, have any idea of the immense business done at this port in timber rafting. The first to commence here were the firm of D. Patton & Co. of Quebec. There are some parties doing a limited business, but Patton & Co. handle most. They have already shipped 27 cargoes of oak and pipe staves, one of which was lost in the GEM. The value of timber that they will send down to Quebec this year, will reach $400,000. Thus far, 300,000 cu. ft. have arrived here and a raft containing 100,000 feet will leave here on Monday. The steamer KINGSTON brought up 26 Indians for rafting and the tug HERCULES has been engaged to tow it down. Patton & Co. still have 500,000 feet coming in on the Great Western from the London district, where they have had 400 men working in the woods. To insure their supply for the immediate future, Patton & Co. have purchased 8,000 acres of timber from the Muncy Indians, 6,000 acres from the Canada Company and 3,000 acres from the Hon. George Brown at Bothwell. The withes for tying the rafts together are twisted by means of a horse whim. The Great Western Ry. Wharf is very busy and a large number of vessels have already been loaded with flour, lumber and staves. We should not omit to mention that a very good business is done in sail-making by W. W. Grant, who manufactures for all the shippers here, besides many at other ports."

Steamer MAGNET berthed at Pointe au Pic Wharf, on the lower St. Lawrence. Photo: National Archives of Canada, C-4854
The steamer MAGNET,Capt. John Fairgrieve, was again placed on the Quebec and Saguenay route in July and August and a much longer cruise was offered by the EMPRESS,Capt. P. G. Chrysler, from Hamilton with calls at St. Catharines,Lewiston,Niagara,Toronto,Cobourg and Kingston. She would spend four days in the Saguenay and one day at Quebec. Her departure date was the 27 July.

On the 30 July, a serious accident in the Welland Canal was reported. It seems the steamer AKRON of the Northern Transportation Co., upbound, tore all four gates off Lock 21 and then, flushed down the basin by the rush of water, destroyed one gate on Lock 20. The steamer GEORGE MOFFATT, downbound between Locks 22 and 21, sustained considerable damage when the water suddenly disappeared and she sat down heavily on the rocky bottom of the basin.

The steamers EMPRESS and BANSHEE had an altercation between the Ducks and Long Point in the first week of August, the BANSHEE receiving damage to her stem and the EMPRESS having a fifteen foot hole opened in the port side forward.

The Hamilton Spectator of the 5 September carried this story:

"Our port presented a gay and animated appearance all day yesterday, in consequence of the arrival of the barque ETOWAH, the first of a line of traders from Liverpool. She entered the harbour with all sail set and anchored off MacKay's Wharf at 9:00 o'clock yesterday [Sunday] morning. She was greeted by all the vessels in port hoisting their colours, which remained up all day. ...The Captain's gig took out several gentlemen, all of whom were highly pleased with her. Mr. Shaw of Liverpool, one of the owners, was on board. The ETOWAH is commanded. by Capt. Wraight and was piloted up from Kingston by Capt. Burket the manager of the line. She brought out a full cargo, about 600 tons for Montreal,Hamilton,Cleveland and Detroit. She made a fair passage despite light winds. We are glad to learn that it is contemplated to celebrate her arrival with a public dinner to the officers of the vessel. As she is to leave for the Upper Lakes on Wednesday, the proposed dinner will have to take place to-morrow, She will unload at MacKay's Wharf to-day and after discharging the rest of her cargo, will go to Bruce Mines to take on copper. She is expected to return to Hamilton in three weeks."

The dinner was, in fact, held as proposed, at the Royal Hotel. The arrangements were made with an alacrity which is difficult to apprehend and would have been completely impossible a century later. There would have been insufficient time to deal with all the arguments and objections, which in our time, arise whenever any suggestion is put forth. The report in the Spectator on Wednesday, filled one and a half columns and even included a lengthy poem commemorating the occasion.

The barkentine ETOWAH at anchor off MacKay's Wharf on her first visit to Hamilton. Photo: Author's Collection
The ETOWAH had to wait until Thursday for a favourable wind and at noon on that day, she set sail with a good westerly breeze and headed for the Canal. The ETOWAH was a barquentine, built in 1863 at Cleveland by Thomas Quayle and she measured 137.3 x 25.2 x 12.1 and her net tonnage was 321.

On the 5 September, Capt. Harbottle's schooner RAPID sank alongside a wharf at Kingston. She was carrying a cargo of stone from Cleveland for the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa,

A new industry came to the waterfront area and on the 12 September, an article in the Hamilton Spectator noted that the glass works had begun operation. The works was owned by Gatchell, Moore & Co. and was situated on James Street North. There were about 50 employees, half of them being glass-blowers and production consisted of small bottles.

The steamer OTTAWA arrived on the 13 September with the steam hammer for the Great Western Rolling Mill. The hammer was built by Morrisons and had a cylinder 36 x 60" and the main bracket base weighed nine tons. The side frames and bed plate weighed ten tons. The piston and piston-rod, made in one solid forging, the rod being 14" in diameter and 17 feet long, weighing 5 tons. The anvil for this hammer was cast in two pieces, at the Dundas Foundry and had already been delivered to the Mill.

The schooner OTTAWA, sailing from Oswego on the 1 October with coal for Myles & Wyatt of Hamilton, went ashore the following morning at the Highlands, east of Toronto.

John Proctor's schooner GLENAVON, from Hamilton to Oswego with barley, shipped by John Smith, struck one of the piers at Oswego on the 8 October. She did considerable damage to her bow and also to the cargo, which was fully insured. The GLENAVON was insured for only two-thirds of her value.

By the middle of November, vessels were going into winter quarters. The steamer MAGNET was laid up, as was the barquentine PLYMOUTH. The schooner GARIBALDI, purchased by A. D. MacKay in March 1864, from Messrs. Killmaster & Woodward of Port Rowan and the schooner ELK, owned by Edw. Browne, were laid-up. The ducks had left the harbour and headed south. Fishing at the Reach was excellent, with good catches of whitefish and herring being brought in at 5:00 a.m. each morning, in time for market at Hamilton.Dennis Phelan had received some orders for winter work in his boat-works and was considering making a skating rink by his boathouse as soon as the ice set. Boat-builder Mayhew had the same in mind.

On the 24 November it was rumoured that the Royal Mail Line would, in 1865, run their steamers from Hamilton to Toronto, thence across to Charlotte and from there to Montreal. This would cut out such ports as Port Hope and Cobourg.

In the Spectator of the same date, an article described the rolling of rails at the Great Western Rolling Mill, now in full operation. About 600 men were employed and the Mill is under the superintendence of Mr. Lambert, formerly manager of the Darlington Iron Co. works at Albert Hill, Darlington. He was later superintendent of the Yarrow Rolling Mills at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which position he resigned to come to Hamilton. The assembly of the steam hammer, which was used to produce the blooms, was supervised by Jos. Maneth of the Wyandotte Rolling Mills,Wyandotte, Mich.

The schooner ALPHA of Hamilton, which had sunk outside the east pier at Port Hope, was refloated by means of steam pumps on the 21 November and her cargo of 8,000 bus, of wheat was transferred to the schooner TRADE WIND and taken to Kingston.

The schooner JENNY LIND of Montreal, from Sodus Point to Kingston with apples, sprang a leak and was beached on the Main Ducks on the 19 November. There was no Insurance on the cargo and only $1,600 on the vessel. The tug HERCULES went to the scene of the wreck, but returned, to Kingston. The schooner's stern was heavily damaged and she appeared to be a total loss. The apples were being washed ashore.

Early on the morning of Saturday, 26 November, the tug W. K. MUIR, owned by Capt. Harbottle, was found to be on fire. She had been berthed for about a week at the City Wharf of the late James Bowman. Local men fought the fire for about two hours and succeeded in putting it out. Damage was confined to the forward part of the vessel.

On Saturday night, 10 December, the steamer GEORGE MOFFATT was bound up the Lake for Toronto with a cargo of salt and the weather was bad. At 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, off Port Darlington, her funnel went over the side, breaking off the steam pipe to the whistle. This caused her to lose her steam and she was driven ashore at Raby Head, stern-first. She had on board, 48 men and one woman who had to remain on her after two attempts to get a line ashore failed. Late on Sunday, the seas subsided and all hands got ashore and were taken care of by the local residents. The steamer PIERREPONT was sent up from Kingston to attempt to refloat the GEORGE MOFFATT, but was unable to do so, She remained at the wreck, removing items of value.

The season of 1864 ended with the announcement on 30 December, that Cunningham, Shaw & Co. would be sending the ETOWAH and the WIRRALITE, and possibly a third vessel to the Lakes in the Spring of 1865


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This volume is copyright The Estate of Ivan S. Brookes and is published with permission of the Estate. The originals are deposited in the Special Collections of the Hamilton Public Library.